The gems and jewellery industry is staring at a sales washout on Akshaya Tritiya for the second consecutive year as most of the states are under lockdowns due to the raging second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic which has led to negative consumer sentiment, say industry leaders.
Akshaya Tritiya, considered as an auspicious day for buying gold and jewellery, falls on May 14 this year.
India is the worst-hit among all nations with the second wave of the pandemic, which has been killing more than 3,500 daily and infecting close to 4 lakhs daily for weeks.
The massive caseload has nearly paralysed the medical infrastructure.
"The second wave of the pandemic is turning out to be much worse than last year with huge loss of life across the country.
"This has created an overall negative consumer sentiment.
"With almost 90 per cent of the states under lockdowns to curb the infections, retail jewellery stores are closed and no delivery is allowed.
"So, we are expecting a near washout of this Akshaya Tritiya as well," All-India Gems & Jewellery Domestic Council (GJC) chairman Ashish Pethe told PTI.
He said last year, at least bookings were taking place through online and telephones, however, this year they are also limited as being in the non-essential category there is no possibility of any delivery, he opined.
Pethe said the only silver lining for this fiscal is that even though most weddings, which got postponed to this year and are taking place in lines with the current lockdown guidelines, most wedding jewellery purchases were already done before the lockdowns were announced.
PNG Jewellers' chairman and managing director Saurabh Gadgil also expects sales to remain muted on Akshaya Tritiya as the Covid-19 scenario is much worse than last year at the ground level.
"This year the pandemic has created a lot of havoc with the number of Covid-19 cases and the number of people succumbing to it is growing.
"This has led to an overall negative consumer sentiment as people are dealing with the loss of near and dear ones," he added.
As the vaccination drive gains momentum and the number of Covid-19 cases decline, the industry will revive, he added.
Kalyan Jewellers' executive director Ramesh Kalyanaraman told PTI that this year the business during Akshaya Tritiya is likely to be the same as last year due to the pandemic.
"Looking at reports of loss of life and the havoc the pandemic is having at the ground level, we have decided not to actively go for any promotional activities this year.
"Out of our 150 showrooms across the country, only 10-15 are open.
"We expect some movement on our gold ownership certificate, which we launched last year," he added.
This situation is likely to improve gradually in another 3-4 weeks, he added.
Precious metals trading platform Augmont director Ketan Kothari also said that physical demand for gold would remain muted like last year due to state-wide lockdowns and closure of jewellery shops.
"Those families, who have lost the lives of family members in the last year or whose family members are in critical condition now are certainly not going to buy gold on the festive day.
"So during these uncertain times, the sentiment of buyers is weak.
"Survival and saving cash for uncertainty is the preference of customers now," he opined.
Also, those Indians who buy gold on auspicious days like Akshaya Tritiya, Navratri, and Dhanteras are likely to return to buying the precious metal as prices are currently trading 20 per cent lower than the record high of Rs 58,000 per 10 grams in August 2020.
If not in huge quantities, then certainly in auspicious token amount, he added.
Currently, the gold price is hovering at Rs 48,700-49,000 per 10 grams.
Meanwhile, WHP Jewellers' director Aditya Pethe said, "This is the second year when our stores are shut on this day. We already missed out on Gudi Padwa sales for the second year.
"For us these are two major days of sales and this is going to be a major blow for the organised retail sector that offers huge employment to skilled and semi-skilled workforce."
This is the second year in a row that we are going to miss sales of Akshay Tritiya due to the lockdown, ANMOL founder Ishu Datwani said.
"Last year, business was down by more than 70 per cent on average for most jewellery retailers.
"April is the beginning of the new financial year and we are beginning the year with a lockdown.
"At this rate most of us will struggle and we sincerely hope that the government chips in with real sops and monetary stimulus for the business community and the common man to help tide over these difficult times.
"Our experience of last year shows that not much sales happen online so even this year not expecting anything substantial," he opined.
World Gold Council Managing Director, India, Somasundaram PR mentioned that retail stores are closed in several major cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, and in gold consuming states like Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal.
"As lockdowns have been re-imposed in response to the second wave of COVID infections sweeping the country, consumer sentiment has dipped and social occasion muted."
"This will severely impact offline sales during this Akshaya Tritiya. However, digital and omni-channel retail strategies developed over the last year by many players may be a silver lining, preventing Akshaya Tritiya from being a complete washout.
"In some parts of the country where the situation is slightly better and markets are open, consumers might avail the benefits of softened gold prices," he added.
CaratLane COO Avnish Anand was optimistic and told PTI that as the lockdown imposed is not all across, sales are going to be better during the festival.
"In many smaller towns shops are open and delivery is also allowed due to restricted cases of COVID positive cases. This is very good for the digital channel," he said.
Anand said, this year the movement will be more on the engagement rings, kids and smaller gifting items of around Rs 20,000," he added.
Photograph: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters